What’s wrong with our Canadian Democracy (a study of Ontario election results)

Over the past months, I have been observing the actions of the Ford (PC) government as it steamrolls its agenda over what the majority of Ontarians (60%) believe in, in terms of healthcare, library services, education, environment, taxation and corporate regulations, climate change and many other social issues. You may point out that the PC’s won the election fair and square according to constitutional rules and that it true based on current rules. In principle, I have no objection to having a PC representative, as long as they take into account the perspective of all of the constituents in their riding. Unfortunately, they don’t! First past the post doesn’t create a representative government.

Let me explain by looking at one single riding: Ottawa West-Napean

What’s special about this riding? It is the most extreme example of how our voting system fails us.

PC

16591

NDP

16415

LIB

14809

GRN

1937

In the riding of Ottawa West-Napean, the vast majority of voters are ideologically “left” of the PC (Progressive Conservative) party which is “right” or conservative in their viewpoint. The collective of the remaining parties, NDP, Liberal and Green are generally referred to as “centre-left”. But in government, the PC representative from the Ottawa West-Napean riding, Jeremy Roberts, most likely votes on behalf of his party, not on behalf of the citizens in his riding. This is what gives Premier Ford power to implement his personal agenda. He does not have the mandate of Ontarians as he continues to claim.

So who is representing the citizens who did not vote Conservative?

Well, frankly, no one.  Quite simply, the first past the post system puts the power in the hands of whoever gets the highest number of votes in the riding, irrespective of whether or not that individual receives a majority vote. When the “centre-left” vote gets split, the “right” tends to win even though most voters are still somewhere in the “centre-left” continuum. We will likely see the same phenomenon in the Federal election.

You might say, well, this is an extreme case. The PC’s won by a majority in most of the ridings! And you would be completely wrong in most ridings.

Can you guess how many ridings elected a PC representative that represents a minority of their electorate?  Think hard!

Would you believe that vote splitting has given the PCs 42 seats in the Ontario Parliament in which the majority of votes are somewhere in the collective “centre-left” in all of these 42 ridings?

In this article, I will present the numbers for each riding, evaluate the impact and suggest one possible solution that would counteract this flaw and give us a more representative government without changing a law or any part of the constitution (or at least based on my understanding). Read on!

Surely, you might say, that number can’t possibly be right. How could the PCs win 42 seats due to vote splitting of the centre-left. But it’s true! These 42 seats now have a representative that does not vote in alignment with the majority of the electorate in their riding. In almost all cases, they vote on behalf of Doug Ford and only the PC voters in their riding (i.e. the minority). They care nothing about the opinions of the majority of the voters in their ridings.

Only 34 PC representatives (MPPs) can legitimately claim to represent their ridings by voting in favor of Doug Ford’s ideas because in these ridings they have a PC majority.  Now to be fair, NDP, Liberal and Green MPPs should also take the views of the PC voters in their riding into account when making decisions.

Do you want to know which PC MPPs do not represent the majority of voter’s on most issues? I’ll tell you all 42!

Below is the list of all ridings in which the PC’s won because of “centre-left” vote splitting between NDP, Liberal and Green.  This also a list of ridings where responsible PC MPPs should pay more attention to their constituents and less attention to the leader of their party if they truly want to represent their riding. The ridings are as follows:

Brantford-Brant, Whitby, Kitchener-Conastoga, Sault Ste. Marie, Flamborough-Glanbrook, Kitchener South-Hespeler, Durham, Bay of Quinte, Brampton West, Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, Scarborough-Rouge Park, Pickering-Uxbridge, Kanata-Carleton, Peterborough-Kawartha, Brampton South, Simcoe North, Kenora-Rainy River, Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Nepean, Mississauga-Malton, Cambridge, Scarborough Centre, Beaches East York, Burlington, Ajax, Ottawa-West Napean, Mississauga-Erin Mills, Parry Sound-Muskoka, Mississauga Centre, Northumberland-Peterborough South, Mississauga-Streetsville, Oakville North-Burlington, Willowdale, Markham-Stouffville, Mississauga East-Cooksville, Milton, Don Valley North, Glengarry-Prescot-Russell, Mississauga-Lakeshore, Etobicoke Centre, Eglinton-Lawrence, Oakville

If you don’t believe me, check the table at the end of the article which has all the votes for these 4 parties.

Is there anything that can be done to ensure that normal Ontarians are better represented?

As it turns out, there are a number of possible solutions to the problem, most of which require a change to the constitution and the voting system. One approach may be to create a law that makes it illegal for an elected representative to vote in parliament against the wishes of the majority of voters. But what’s the likelihood that this will happen? Another would be to allow each voter to have a first, second, third and possibly fourth preference, only one of which would count based on elimination counts. All of these changes are almost impossible.

There is, however, one approach which only requires cooperation between the three centre-left parties. This approach would mean that the provincial parties would come to an agreement on not running candidates in certain ridings to reduce the vote splitting and in those ridings where a party decides not to run their own candidate, they would to urge their supporters to support the other “centre-left” party.  Let me take two ridings as an example:

Brantford-Brant 

PC

24080

NDP

23459

LIB

5439

GRN

2707

In this case, if Liberals would have dropped their candidate and instead encouraged their supporters to vote NDP, the NDP would very likely have won the seat. While not identical in their thinking, the NDP are ideologically and in terms of policy more in line with Liberal thinking than with the PCs. As such, this would have yielded a better overall result for the riding. In return, we will look at a riding where the NDP could have dropped their candidate and encouraged support of the Liberal candidate.

Oakville

PC

24598

NDP

9277

LIB

20122

GRN

1976

In Oakville, the NDP could drop their candidate and urged their voters to vote Liberal. Now on the surface, this may seem like it is cheating voters of their right to vote for their party of preference. And to some degree, this is true. On the other hand, taking these two steps would likely have given an extra seat to both the Liberals and the NDP in parliament and deprived the PC of 2 seats.  In both cases, the ridings would have an MPP that is closer to their ideological viewpoint than the PC representative. Both ridings would have been better off and Ontario would have been better off.

Can this same approach be used for other ridings? Glad that you asked. Of course it can and I have the numbers!

In order to have the best representation possible, here are what the numbers suggested based on current vote counts. Please note that for future elections, an estimate would need to be made based on polling results in each riding.

In each of the following ridings, based on current vote counts, the Liberals should not run a candidate but instead should encourage support of the NDP candidate.

Brantford-Brant, Whitby, Kitchener-Conastoga, Sault Ste. Marie, Flamborough-Glanbrook, Kitchener South-Hespeler, Durham, Bay of Quinte, Brampton West, Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, Scarborough-Rouge Park, Pickering-Uxbridge, Kanata-Carleton, Peterborough-Kawartha, Brampton South, Simcoe North, Kenora-Rainy River, Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Nepean, Mississauga-Malton, Cambridge, Scarborough Centre, Beaches East York, Burlington

Provided the support of the Liberals mostly went the way of the NDP, and also having the Green party drop its candidate in 5 locations, this would give the NDP 64 seats in parliament.

On the other hand, the NDP should support the Liberals in the following seats:

Ajax, Ottawa-West Napean, Mississauga-Erin Mills, Mississauga Centre, Northumberland-Peterborough South, Mississauga-Streetsville, Oakville North-Burlington, Willowdale, Markham-Stouffville, Mississauga East-Cooksville, Milton, Don Valley North, Glengarry-Prescot-Russell, Mississauga-Lakeshore, Etobicoke Centre, Eglinton-Lawrence, Oakville

If these ridings dropped their NDP candidate and their voters supported the Liberals, this would give the Liberals 24 seats in parliament, not a minority, but much better than the 7 they ended up with.  In one of these 24 seats, just adding the NDP and Liberal votes together wouldn’t be enough to defeat the PC candidate. They would also need the Green party to drop its candidate and have the support of the Greens.

In the following seats, the Green party would need  to drop their candidate in support of another party:

Bay of Quinte to support NDP, Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte to support NDP, Simcoe North to support NDP, Kenora-Rainy River to support NDP, Beaches East York to support NDP, Markham-Stouffville to support LIB

Without support from the Green party, the NDP would only have a chance of winning 59 seats and the Liberals would only have a chance of winning 23 seats. Still not bad but it could be better with the help of the Greens. But what incentive does the Green Party have for doing this? My suggestion may come as a little surprise. In one riding, in order to incentivize the Green party, both Liberals and NDP should offer to drop their candidate. Specifically in Parry Sound-Muskoka both NDP and Liberal should drop their candidates in support the Green candidate. Why would they do this when they both have considerably more votes than the Green party? Simple! Neither would win without support of the Greens and if they want the Green party to support their efforts, they need to provide an incentive. This is the riding where none of the three parties came close to the PCs but collectively the three still have a slight majority. None could win without the support of both the other two, the vote is very close in any case and the Green party received a reasonable amount of support. It would offer a chance to the Green party to gain another seat in return for their support in 6 other ridings. Otherwise, they have no incentive in helping with other 6 seats.

Can these parties collaborate to make this happen? I doubt it, but if they did, there would certainly be a very different outcome, and I might add, a government much more representative of the viewpoints of most Ontarians. All three “centre-left” parties would benefit. It would be a result which would make NDP, Liberal and Green supporters much happier than the current situation.

One other minor detail. For those of you who are keen observers, you might look at a few of the ridings (Ajax, Ottawa West-Napean, Mississauga-Erin Mills, Mississauga Centre, Northumberland-Peterborough South, Mississauga-Streetsville) where I am recommending that the NDP drop their candidate in support of the Liberals. You might point out that NDP came second to the PC’s in these ridings so why should they drop their candidate. The reason is as follows:

1) In these ridings the difference in votes between NDP and Liberal was very small (<2000).

2) In total vote transfer, the Liberals are still being asked to transfer more votes by dropping candidates in many ridings where NDP are second to the PCs. In this case, I am suggesting for the NDP to drop their candidate in considering the overall vote counts that are being swung by having a party dropping their candidates with the goal to balance the number of votes being moved in each direction. As such, in a few ridings where the NDP actually got a few more votes than the Liberals, I am suggesting that the NDP drop their candidate in favour of the Liberals because the Liberals would be supporting NDP candidates in many more ridings. As such, on those ridings where there was a close result, I am recommending that the NDP drop their candidate to balance the overall vote transfer.

Below are all the vote counts by riding, the party representing the riding, and the party that could have represented the riding if vote splitting recommendations above were taken:

Riding PC NDP LIB GRN Left of PC% PC % Best Rep Current MPP GRN Needed
Ajax 19078 15130 12607 1244 60% 40% NDP PC No
Algoma-Manitoulin 6750 15995 2272 989 74% 26% NDP NDP No
Aurora-Oakridges-Richmond Hill 25214 8116 9718 1195 43% 57% PC PC No
Barrie-Innisfil 22112 12644 5536 3182 49% 51% PC PC No
Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte 20445 12891 6210 5354 54% 46% NDP PC Yes
Bay of Quinte 24256 16067 7512 1730 51% 49% NDP PC Yes
Beaches East York 24064 13480 9202 2128 51% 49% NDP PC Yes
Brampton Centre 12803 12892 5825 1053 61% 39% NDP NDP No
Brampton East 12631 17606 6245 500 66% 34% NDP NDP No
Brampton North 14380 14877 8410 1366 63% 37% NDP NDP No
Brampton South 15652 12919 7212 1472 58% 42% NDP PC No
Brampton West 14951 14461 7013 999 60% 40% NDP PC No
Brantford-Brant 24080 23459 5439 2707 57% 43% NDP PC No
Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound 26845 11817 6041 2922 44% 56% PC PC No
Burlington 25502 18062 15515 2828 59% 41% NDP PC No
Cambridge 17793 15639 11191 3018 63% 37% NDP PC No
Carleton 25798 11308 9768 1985 47% 53% PC PC No
Chatham-Kent-Leamington 24070 16558 3736 1636 48% 52% PC PC No
Davenport 7370 27603 8552 1624 84% 16% NDP NDP No
Don Valley East 11984 9927 13011 917 67% 33% LIB LIB No
Don Valley North 17913 8431 12470 1015 55% 45% LIB PC No
Don Valley West 17621 8620 17802 1268 61% 39% LIB LIB No
Dufferin-Caledon 29701 11381 6971 7011 46% 54% PC PC No
Durham 28569 19249 10235 2359 53% 47% NDP PC No
Eglinton-Lawrence 20284 9153 19532 1230 60% 40% LIB PC No
Elgin-Middlesex-London 29264 16923 3857 2049 44% 56% PC PC No
Essex 22731 26054 3053 1853 58% 42% NDP NDP No
Etobicoke Centre 24432 10311 19708 1329 56% 44% LIB PC No
Etobicoke North 19055 9210 6601 991 47% 53% PC PC No
Etobicoke-Lakeshore 22198 18997 14046 2101 61% 39% NDP PC No
Flamborough-Glanbrook 22454 17630 7967 2307 55% 45% NDP PC No
Glengarry-Prescot-Russell 19958 10612 15435 1429 58% 42% LIB PC No
Guelph 14084 13928 6537 29082 78% 22% GRN GRN No
Haldimand-Norfolk 28889 13609 4656 2095 41% 59% PC PC No
Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock 32605 15209 5688 2584 42% 58% PC PC No
Hamilton Centre 5730 23866 3979 2102 84% 16% NDP NDP No
Hamilton East-Stoney Creek 12634 22518 5320 1873 70% 30% NDP NDP No
Hamilton Mountain 12891 24406 4134 2300 71% 29% NDP NDP No
Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas 17188 23915 10960 2302 68% 32% NDP NDP No
Hastings-Lennox and Addington 22636 14457 5173 1910 49% 51% PC PC No
Humber River-Black Creek 9367 11573 8642 485 69% 31% NDP NDP No
Huron-Bruce 27646 15326 7356 1804 47% 53% PC PC No
Kanata-Carleton 23089 15161 9110 2827 54% 46% NDP PC No
Kenora-Rainy River 9693 7503 2118 721 52% 48% NDP PC Yes
Kiiwetinoong 1744 3238 983 406 73% 27% NDP NDP No
Kingston and the Islands 14043 21253 14868 3504 74% 26% NDP NDP No
King-Vaughan 29136 12012 7921 1754 43% 57% PC PC No
Kitchener Centre 13070 20512 9499 3234 72% 28% NDP NDP No
Kitchener South-Hespeler 16510 15741 6335 3198 60% 40% NDP PC No
Kitchener-Conastoga 17005 16319 6035 2793 60% 40% NDP PC No
Lambton-Kent-Middlesex 27877 16791 3138 1655 44% 56% PC PC No
Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston 26194 15349 5359 2410 47% 53% PC PC No
Leed-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes 29996 9669 6543 2347 38% 62% PC PC No
London North Centre 16701 25757 8501 2493 69% 31% NDP NDP No
London West 17133 32644 5847 2211 70% 30% NDP NDP No
London-Fanshawe 13519 25272 3797 2050 70% 30% NDP NDP No
Markham-Stouffville 25912 10997 14007 2153 51% 49% LIB PC Yes
Markham-Thornhill 18943 8010 9160 859 49% 51% PC PC No
Markham-Unionville 29305 7778 8455 993 37% 63% PC PC No
Milton 18237 9733 13060 2208 58% 42% LIB PC No
Mississauga Centre 17860 12046 11102 1149 58% 42% NDP PC No
Mississauga East-Cooksville 17862 9871 13120 1498 58% 42% LIB PC No
Mississauga-Erin Mills 19954 13203 12107 1312 57% 43% NDP PC No
Mississauga-Lakeshore 22520 9765 18636 1572 57% 43% LIB PC No
Mississauga-Malton 14712 12350 7812 1187 59% 41% NDP PC No
Mississauga-Streetsville 20879 12393 12344 1349 56% 44% NDP PC No
Mushkegowuk-James Bay 2786 4782 1306 164 69% 31% NDP NDP No
Nepean 23919 15110 10383 2679 54% 46% NDP PC No
Newmarket-Aurora 21126 30161 5554 2057 64% 36% NDP NDP No
Niagara Centre 18333 21618 5759 1803 61% 39% NDP NDP No
Niagara Falls 21126 30161 5554 2057 64% 36% NDP NDP No
Niagara West 24361 13744 4933 2578 47% 53% PC PC No
Nickel Belt 8018 23157 3182 1137 77% 23% NDP NDP No
Nippising 17598 12994 2794 997 49% 51% PC PC No
Northumberland-Peterborough South 27368 14794 14593 2727 54% 46% NDP PC No
Oakville 24598 9277 20122 1976 56% 44% LIB PC No
Oakville North-Burlington 25685 13496 13503 2045 53% 47% LIB PC No
Orleans 22509 14033 24972 1603 64% 36% LIB LIB No
Oshawa 22694 24301 4278 1957 57% 43% NDP NDP No
Ottawa Centre 10337 29675 21111 2266 84% 16% NDP NDP No
Ottawa South 15319 14250 20783 1618 71% 29% LIB LIB No
Ottawa-Vanier 10252 14232 20555 1951 78% 22% LIB LIB No
Ottawa-West Napean 16591 16415 14809 1937 67% 33% NDP PC No
Oxford 29152 15917 3619 2247 43% 57% PC PC No
Parkdale-High Park 9821 32407 9261 2544 82% 18% NDP NDP No
Parry Sound-Muskoka 22664 10394 9438 4071 51% 49% NDP PC Yes
Perth-Wellington 23736 14385 5062 2746 48% 52% PC PC No
Peterborough-Kawartha 22939 20745 15029 2055 62% 38% NDP PC No
Pickering-Uxbridge 22447 17029 10851 2105 57% 43% NDP PC No
Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke 33350 8066 4701 1436 30% 70% PC PC No
Richmond Hll 22224 12108 7490 1248 48% 52% PC PC No
Sarnia-Lambton 26811 19005 2226 1856 46% 54% PC PC No
Sault Ste. Marie 13498 13084 3199 1044 56% 44% NDP PC No
Scarborough Centre 15021 13031 8684 1028 60% 40% NDP PC No
Scarborough North 16813 8320 7519 543 49% 51% PC PC No
Scarborough Southwest 13592 19751 8215 1144 68% 32% NDP NDP No
Scarborough-Agincourt 18582 6434 10447 635 49% 51% PC PC No
Scarborough-Guildwood 11884 9910 11965 877 66% 34% LIB LIB No
Scarborough-Rouge Park 16224 15261 8785 1014 61% 39% NDP PC No
Simcoe North 25530 15275 9640 3615 53% 47% NDP PC Yes
Simcoe-Grey 34094 13444 8771 4192 44% 56% PC PC No
Spadina-Fort York 10784 24677 11770 1817 78% 22% NDP NDP No
St. Catharines 17353 18911 12671 1923 66% 34% NDP NDP No
Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry 26780 9416 5386 1596 38% 62% PC PC No
Sudbury 8392 17392 8113 1504 76% 24% NDP NDP No
Thornhill 28889 9134 6985 1043 37% 63% PC PC No
Thunder Bay-Atikokan 7552 11793 11712 880 76% 24% NDP NDP No
Thunder Bay-Superior North 5395 11154 11973 838 82% 18% LIB LIB No
Timiskaming-Cochrane 6160 16805 2456 723 76% 24% NDP NDP No
Timmins 4634 8978 1378 273 70% 30% NDP NDP No
Toronto Centre 6234 23688 11986 1377 86% 14% NDP NDP No
Toronto-Danforth 8131 32938 7216 2248 84% 16% NDP NDP No
Toronto-St. Paul’s 13780 18843 17495 1690 73% 27% NDP NDP No
University-Rosedale 10431 24537 10898 2652 79% 21% NDP NDP No
Vaughan-Woodbridge 21687 6254 13742 972 49% 51% PC PC No
Waterloo 16973 27315 6577 2613 68% 32% NDP NDP No
Wellington-Halton Hills 31659 14087 7492 5066 46% 54% PC PC No
Whitby 26471 20562 7427 1958 53% 47% NDP PC No
Willowdale 17732 10421 10815 932 56% 44% LIB PC No
Windsor West 11073 20276 5762 1393 71% 29% NDP NDP No
Windsor-Tecumseh 11675 25221 11675 1907 77% 23% NDP NDP No
York Centre 18434 8617 7865 843 48% 52% PC PC No
York South-Weston 12288 13456 10379 942 67% 33% NDP NDP No
York-Simcoe 26050 10655 6183 2195 42% 58% PC PC No

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